PDN Photo of the Day

Monumental Photographs

Think of one of the earliest photographic images. Chances are, what comes to mind is a photograph of a building. In the nascent days of the medium, photographers often trained their cameras on monumental architecture and the urban streetscapes around them. An exhibition currently on view at the Getty Center (itself an architectural star) explores the ongoing relationship between photography and architecture. The 24 works in the show span the history of photography, from an 1843 calotype of a street in Paris by William Henry Fox Talbot to images of the sky glimpsed between skyscrapers, taken by Peter Wegner in 2009. The show also illustrates that as photographers shifted their view of photography’s role and purpose, their use of buildings in their images evolved at the same time. In 1852, when Roger Fenton traveled through Russia, he photographed the domes of the Kremlin for a book of travel photos he hoped to sell to patrons back in Britain who would never glimpse such architecture in any other medium. In the early twentieth century when Paul Strand created a formal, geometric study of rooftops in New York City, he was determined to establish photography as an art form on par with painting, which at the time had turned to abstraction. “In Focus: Architecture” also includes a study of a water tower by Bernd and Hilla Becher, an image of a simple, red house in the woods by William Christenberry and a building set on a wide-open western landscape photographed by Robert Adams. “In Focus: Architecture” runs through March 2, 2014 at The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and is accompanied by an expansive catalogue that draws from the Getty’s extensive collection. It surveys the photography of architecture chronologically and encompasses subject matter from Egyptian ruins to new skyscrapers still under construction.

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